Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Paganism and PR

There is a big news story that is blowing up my social media.  This blog post is inspired by that story, but it's not really about the story itself.  Suffice it to say that some people did some stuff and many people feel they are not being appropriately punished by our legal system.  So there was a public Pagan response to take up the mantle and hex the offending parties. 

If you've read my blog for a while, you probably know that I'm not opposed to taking a darker path.  I'm definitely not a 'turn the other cheek' kind of person.  You hit me, expect to be hit back.  I am not going to roll over and let people take advantage of me without resistance.  However, I'm also not someone who turns to the most harsh response as my first reaction.  I will always try to reach some sort of compromise, or to try to get the other person to see how they are causing trouble and get them to change their actions themselves.

This instance, and it's very public nature, troubles me.  I don't agree with what was done, nor do I agree with the consequences levied upon the offenders.  But I also don't agree with the way that the community has chosen to respond.  This is a community that I identify with.  I call myself Pagan, and I know that by doing such, any public action taken by people under the Pagan name is therefor associated with me.  Whether they intend it or not, the people who are calling for a public hexing are creating the image that Pagans support this kind of action.

What I find most distressing is that the suggested hex isn't focused on helping the offenders see what they did wrong, or encouraging the system to uphold the laws to which we are all subject.  But rather, it calls for a very extreme judgement upon them, invoking the Gods to bring punishment directly to them, in words that, if taken at their literal face value, will lead to death.

I think it was a horrible situation, and I feel like those in question do deserve to be punished...but I am not sure that death is the answer.  I am not opposed to death as a punishment, but in this case, I don't think it is the right punishment.  Especially not for all the individuals being targeted by this proposed hex.

Furthermore, I don't think that it is my place to work towards such a punishment.  I have seen some people suggest that by casting this hex they are taking up the mantle of Karma.  Whether one believes in Karma or not, I don't think it is my place to try to enforce it.  If the universe wishes to use me to help other people learn, so be it.  But who am I to decide that I know best how to judge other people..and how to punish them.

I have said before, I don't view magical morality as different from mundane morality.  If I don't feel it is right to take physical action towards a thing, I won't take magical action towards it.  In this particular case, I might definitely work (both physically and magically) towards seeing that the law was upheld, that truth was brought to light, and that justice was served.  But I would never consider taking a gun and hunting down and shooting the people involved...so why would I do the magical equivalent?

But, if individuals do feel this hex is the right action to take, that is their choice and their right as free-thinking individuals.  What I wish that they would remember is that the greater world will not see this as an action of justice but an action of hate.  They will see only the word 'hex' and their minds will fill with the images that history and media have provided, and Pagans will be feared.

This was a very public issue, and a fully public response.  I didn't have to join any groups or talk to anyone at all in order to find out the nature of this hex.  I read a news article that had a link to the Pagan event, which was a public Facebook group and therefor open for anyone and everyone to see.  The suggested hex was right there, with its unfortunate wording and post upon post of people sharing their participation.

Sure, there were people who focused on healing the victims or changed their focus to seek justice and not vengeance.  But we all know that when someone wants to see an enemy, they don't see the good, they only see the bad.  Anyone who wanted a reason to hate or fear Pagan's would look at that event and those posts and see nothing but a group of people using magic to harm others.

That is not the reputation I want for Paganism.  For so many years I think we have been fighting this perception that Paganism is about devil worship or black magic.  I am not denying that there are people out there who follow a darker Pagan path.  But it is hard to change public opinion when responses like this are what catch the public eye.

We all have both dark and light in us.  I do not shy away from my dark side or the darker parts of me.  I have talked about them freely, here in my blog, and in conversation with people in public mediums (such as Facebook).  But I am always mindful of my audience.  I try to make sure that I present myself as a thoughtful individual who is aware of the consequences of her actions.  I am also mindful of first impressions.  I do not open a conversation with new people by taking about the deeper, darker parts of myself.

As a community, I feel that we sometimes forget that the public doesn't always see all the good that goes on in our groups.  I know of a ton of healing groups that do regular work, people who do offer prayers for those in need every week, and lots of Pagan's who promote greater understanding and compassion towards the world at large.  But many of these are not announced to the public.  Many Pagans are still very private about their spiritual life.  We don't all want to face opponents every day, and there are many out there who will take every opportunity they are given to cause strife and sew discord.

So, I just want to remind everyone, in light of this recent event, to think about the words and actions you share with the world.  And not only in terms of you, but also in terms of everyone that you are representing when you take up a label like Pagan (or Witch, or Heathen, or whatever you call yourself).   Remember that your actions reflect on us all.  And take a moment to think about how other people will view what you are saying and doing, and ask yourself if that is how you want to be remembered.

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